Everything You Need To Know About Cue Sheets

by Shawn LeMone & Mike Todd  •  December 12, 2005

by Shawn LeMone & Mike Todd

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More Info on Cue Sheets

Since this article first appeared in ASCAP's Playback magazine, ASCAP, working with the other major PRO, has launched RapidCue. RapidCue is a web-based application that allows production companies to submit cue sheets in a digital format. For more information on RapidCue, click here.

If your music is used in a film or television program, filing a cue sheet with ASCAP is an important step in getting paid for your work. Here's everything you need to know about doing it right, and the most frequently asked questions about cue sheets.

As you may know, ASCAP licenses television stations and others the right to broadcast the music contained in their programming. ASCAP collects the license fees from networks, cable, PBS and local stations and distributes royalties to the composer and publisher members based on these performances. In order to determine what music has been performed and which members to pay for these performances, "cue sheets" are required that list all the music contained in any particular program. These cue sheets are then matched to broadcast schedules and performances are processed so that members can receive royalties from the use of their music.

If your music is used in a film or television program, it is imperative that a cue sheet is filed with ASCAP so that you can be paid for your work. Typically, the production company is responsible for doing this. ASCAP has very solid relationships with the major and larger independent production companies and the flow of cue sheets to ASCAP has been steady and reliable since the early days of film and television. Currently, ASCAP receives tens of thousands of cue sheets every year.

The creation of cue sheets often stems from the composer or music editor's spotting notes or edit decision list (EDL). If a music supervisor is on the project, they can sometimes be responsible for collecting information on the music used as well. A rough draft of a cue sheet is then sent to the music department at the production company for verification of accuracy and the inclusion of additional information, such as the proper copyright information for licensed music or other publishing-related information. The production company then distributes the finished cue sheet to all interested parties, such as publishers, composers, attorneys and performing rights organizations like ASCAP.

Due to the rapidly changing landscape of television and film production, there are a growing number of independent production companies that may not be aware of the importance of filing a music cue sheet. It has become increasingly important for composers, publishers and other music professionals to educate the production companies with which they work about what a cue sheet is. In recognition of this, ASCAP has created a new area on our website offering a "Cue Sheet FAQ" and downloadable samples for people not familiar with cue sheets.

For major production companies, ASCAP introduced EZQ in 1995, a PC based application, that allowed the easy creation and management of cue sheets and the ability to digitally submit the cue sheets directly to ASCAP's database for processing. Tens of thousands of cue sheets have been submitted through EZQ since that time. Look for future announcements of new technology in this area.

If your music is used in a film or television program, it is imperative that a cue sheet is filed with ASCAP so that you can be paid for your work.

Cue Sheet FAQ

What is a cue sheet?
A cue sheet is a document that lists all of the musical elements of an audio/visual program. ASCAP uses cue sheets to determine to whom it distributes performance royalties.

What information is required in order to complete a cue sheet and for ASCAP to accept it?
The cue sheet should have identifying information for the program it represents (i.e. film, episode of television series, etc.) and should list the cue title, duration, usage and entitled parties (writers/composers and publishers) for each cue.

Is there an "Industry Standard" cue sheet?
Yes. The industry has established standards in regards to terms and what information is required on a cue sheet for it to be valid. In addition, ASCAP and BMI have developed a common understanding of an industry standard.

What format should the cue sheet be sent in? (i.e. fax, e-mail, hard copy)
ASCAP would prefer that cue sheets be e-mailed to: cuesheet@ascap.com or tvcuesheet@ascap.com If the cue sheet cannot be e-mailed to ASCAP, then please mail a legible hard copy to: ASCAP, ATTN: Cue Sheet Dept., 250 West 57th Street New York, NY 10107

Who is responsible for submitting the cue sheets to ASCAP?
The production company is responsible for submitting cue sheets.? Typically, this responsibility is handled by the music department. Although cue sheets may come in from other sources, the copy from the production company is always considered authoritative.

What is the deadline to submit cue sheets to ASCAP?
As soon as possible; ideally no later than three months after the original broadcast for a television program. For a theatrically released feature film, cue sheets should be on file before the first foreign theatrical performance.

When are cue sheets processed?
Cue sheets are processed in time for the distribution that reflects performances in the quarter that the program was first broadcast. In other words, 4-6 months after the program has aired.

Do I need to submit cue sheets for re-runs?
No. ASCAP uses airdate schedules to process re-runs of the same program.

Why can't I see the works I wrote for a television program on ACE?
If a work (known as cues for an audio visual production) that appears on the cue sheet does not have a life outside of the production and is not separately registered, the individual work/cue will not appear on ACE under the work/cue title. Underscore and theme content from a production will appear on ACE under the name of the production e.g. Helen Cues, Helen Theme.

Do I need to register each cue with the title registration system?
You do not need to register a work if the work is: underscore (music written for the audiovisual production and will only exist within the production); logo; theme (theme music written for the audiovisual production that will only exist within the production).
A registration is required if the work is: not written for the audiovisual production and will exist outside of the production (even if it is another production); a work that has a life outside of the production (e.g. popular work that airs on radio).

I'm a composer and I just found out that the production company never sent in my cue sheets. What do I do?
The composer should contact the production company and request that they produce the cue sheets, then submit them to ASCAP. A common thing to include in any composer contract is a deal point that the production company maintains this responsibility.

What if it is not possible to contact the production company because they no longer exist?
If composers still have a copy of the program and all of the information on the music that was used, they can create their own cue sheet and submit to ASCAP with a copy of the program on VHS or DVD.

How far back will ASCAP pay royalties on late cue sheets?
Composers have nine months after their last annual statement which is distributed every April to inform ASCAP that performances were not processed.

Do infomercials, commercials, etc. require cue sheets as well?
Infomercials, commercials and any other audio/visual products that contain multiple pieces of music require cue sheets.

The production company does not have a publishing company established. What happens to their publisher's share of performance royalties?
If the production company negotiated that it retains the publishing interests of the underscore in the composer's agreement, it is obviously in their best interest to establish a publishing company to receive performance royalties. If the publishing is established after the cue sheets have been filed, it is imperative to alert ASCAP that those cue sheets need to be updated to reflect this new membership.

Who should I contact if I have questions about cue sheets?
Member Services (800) 95-ASCAP or (800) 952-7227 or the LA film & television dept. at (323) 883-1000.